Most of us are familiar with a famous quote attributed to Mark Twain (among others):
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
However, to truly appreciate this important insight, one has to understand the tremendous benefits that lying bestows on our daily lives. The fact is, we love lying so much that, if no one else is around, most of us lie to ourselves.
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?
Frankly, no one is that good-looking, although there is one waitress at my local pancake house who deserves honorable mention.
I can stick to my budget.
Oh look, a flying pig!
I will use my gym membership.
Not unless it comes with an app that will do the sweating for us.
On that last one, note that the abysmal dropout rate at everyone’s gym makes perfect sense. Paying someone so that you can be bored, miserable and occasionally injured is about as sensible as investing your 401K in lottery tickets.
The Truth About Lies
First, let’s ignore social pleasantries, such as: “I’m fine.” “I’m doing well.” “My spouse still has the hots for me.”
Yes, they’re lies, but these are basically mindless kneejerk responses. They’re chaff, not wheat. A genuine lie requires an intent to deceive. In reality, we learn to lie because in many situations we will be penalized for telling the truth.
EXAMPLE: Which of these excuses would you give your boss for being late to a morning meeting?
B. I was out drinking tequila shots until 2 AM, slept through my alarm clock, and then, as soon as I forced myself awake, completely unexpectedly, my wife rolled onto her back.
Face it, if ‘B’ were the truth, you’d still choose ‘A’, the harmless little lie.
What Are Damned Lies?
A betrayal of trust is the most often noted characteristic of a damned lie.
Our intimate relationships are supposedly built on trust, however from the donning of a virginal white wedding dress to the later testimony under oath in divorce court, lies tend to pile up. Although men have a reputation for being more at fault, psychological studies show that men and women are equal opportunity liars. However, those same studies note that only about ten percent of relationship lies can be considered a betrayal of trust, which demonstrates two things: Both men and women have been caught telling damned lies, and (since they were caught) neither sex is particularly good at it.
“It’s recessive genes. Our baby’s red hair and green eyes come from my side of the family.”
“Honey, we’re black.”
On a more public scale, American society is riddled with damned lies, which we either rail against or complacently accept, but rarely change.
EXAMPLE: Does the average congressman, who spends forty to fifty percent of his time soliciting campaign funds in order to stay in office, really represent your interests?
I suppose it’s possible. That is, if you happen to be a well-funded gun lobbyist, an oil company executive, or a Washington-based but very discreet call girl.
Of course, government does have some traditional safeguards. Damned lies in politics are strictly forbidden by an Ethics Committee, composed of—surprise—politicians. So, we can at least be comforted knowing that the toddlers are standing guard over the cookie jar.
Statistics – A Unique Case
Statistics are not always the worst lies, but they are the most flexible, more so than a boneless gymnast.
According to a recent article in the British newspaper, The Guardian, there are nine ways that politicians manipulate statistics in order to deceive voters.
Only nine? Amateurs!
For American politicians, distorting statistics is a fine art, and no professional artist limits himself to just nine colors. American politicians can bias and\or pervert statistics in uncounted ways. And if they can’t, they’re more than willing to hire a PR staff who are experts in what’s called ‘spin.’ That’s from the ancient Greek ‘spineratus’ which means, to polish a turd.
Now, most of us don’t have staff available, however we can still manipulate statistics to our advantage using the easiest method: Lie.
The US Department of Education’s 2016 Student Assessment shows 98% of students who had their homework eaten by a dog covered the paper not with algebra equations, but liver sauce.
Is this fact or fiction?
Who cares? Everyone you know is too lazy to check.
The truth is out there: We love to lie. In fact, people who are honest all the time are either hated or dead.
No, those jeans don’t make you look fat, honey, but you do have a small moon orbiting your butt.
Statistically, that husband is one of the dead ones.
Parting Funny: What I wanna know is, which wine goes with Captain Crunch? – George Carlin